Runners in Europe’s toughest endurance race, which took place in the Alps at the weekend, had two new cameramen for this year’s ordeal.
Two eagles – one white-tailed, one bald – were literally able to record a bird’s eye view of the event, thanks to specially fitted mini cameras.
The so-called Freedom Eagles have been seen before, in spectacular flights over London, Paris, Cologne and Dubai.
This time they were taken up into the Alps to film the runners in the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, which stretches 170 kilometres around the mountain through France, Switzerland and Italy.
“We’re going to use the incredible sight of these birds… between eight and ten times better than us. To ease his task, I put on a little orange flag he’s used to; he can locate me very quickly from more than two kilometres away. Today it was very fast… I think he came down in barely 40 seconds. 1,000 metres vertically, 1,400 metres horizontally. an average speed of more than 150 kilometres an hour,” said falconer Jacques-Olivier Travers.
There’s another motive behind the so-called Freedom Eagles: to raise awareness for threatened wildlife.
These mountains were once the natural habitat of the white-tailed eagle until around two centuries ago. Although saved from extinction and successfully rehabilitated, it hasn’t yet been reintroduced to the Alps.